Biloxian Billy Lyons lived his life for others and always put his hometown first


When Billy Lyons' daughter, Susie Strahan, tried to comfort her father in his last few weeks, it was instead Lyons who comforted her.

Strahan said her father looked her in the eyes, smiled and said, "It's all going to be alright, boo. Don't worry."

"He always saw everything in a positive light," Strahan said. "Even at the end, he put everyone before him."

Lyons, 89, died Sunday at his home in Kentucky, where he moved five years ago with his daughter's family.

A lifelong Coastian before the move, Lyons was heavily involved in bringing events to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, acted as Mississippi Boxing Commissioner and helped reform the Mississippi State Athletic Commission in 1992.

When Lyons was named chairman in 1992, the Mississippi State Athletic Commission, which oversees boxing and wrestling in the state, had been inactive for three years and was $6,000 in debt.

Under his leadership, the MSAC grew to the fifth-ranked boxing destination in the nation and produced 238 boxing cards from 1992-2001.

Lyons helped bring Light-Heavyweight Champion Roy Jones Jr. to fight on the Coast three separate times in what were the top three fights in Mississippi history.

"I knew my dad was a busy man from very early on," Strahan said. "He worked for others, though. He never wanted anything for himself."

Lyons worked tirelessly with charities sponsored by the Elks Club and Nativity B.V.M. Catholic Church to aid those who needed an extra hand.

"He treated charity as second nature," Strahan said. "He truly believed we were on this planet to help others and thrived on seeing others smile."

Lyons was also a family man with eight siblings and three children of his own.

"No matter how busy he was, he always found time for family," said Barry Lyons, Billy Lyons' nephew. "He was more a big brother than uncle when I was growing up."

Barry Lyons, a former professional baseball player, said his uncle was loved by everyone who ever knew him, and he treated everyone with tremendous respect.

"He lived his life the way everyone should," Barry Lyons said. "I'm lucky to have had him around when I was growing up."

Billy Lyons, Barry Lyons said, was proud of the Gulf Coast and constantly worked to bring people to the area he loved so much.

"I think Billy really flourished when he became boxing commissioner," Barry Lyons said. "He was proud to lend a hand in Biloxi's growth."

Barry Lyons said his uncle was a driving force in his athletic endeavors.

"I never worried about the negatives, because Billy was there to support me," Barry Lyons said. "Win or lose, I knew he was always there on my side."

Strahan said her father was the perfect role model for her and her siblings, Mike Lyons and Carol Halliburton.

"He taught us to be thankful for everything we have and to do the right things," Strahan said. "I'm so happy my kids can say they knew a man as great as him."

Strahan said her father wasn't one to complain about anything, unless of course it interfered with his Coastian culture.

"The only thing he ever complained about was not enough shrimp in his gumbo in Kentucky," she said. "Even though he moved, he never truly left Biloxi."